The Prince and the Dressmaker (paperback)
by Jen Wang
I really enjoyed The Prince and the Dressmaker, a graphic novel about a girl who makes dresses for rich women, but isn’t able to show her true skills, until a prince hires her to make dresses for him. He doesn’t want anyone to know his secret, so he keeps his female persona a secret and flaunts Frances’s designs as a woman. He finds himself torn between his need to be who he really is, and his duty to his country and his family.
What I liked about this story is more than I can write without giving everything away. The climax will leave you giggling, and the pictures are stunning. I saw this on many Mock Caldecott lists, and I can see the merit in the illustrations. However, I also have to say that I’m thrilled there is a book about a man who wants to dress as a woman, because it is something I haven’t read in a book suitable for children. It is a complicated topic, but this story addresses the issue with likable characters who show acceptance.
There was nothing I didn’t like about this story!
Squish: Fear the Amoeba (hardcover)
by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
Squish is an amoeba who loves reading comics. He has friends and a family and lives like your average child. In this book, he is afraid to tell his friends that a certain movie scares him. They are really into the movie, but after watching it, he is scared of everything, and more afraid to tell them, because he doesn’t want to be made fun of. It is funny and relatable for kids.
What I loved about this book is it is another series by Jennifer L. Holm and her brother Matthew Holm, creators of Babymouse. I am a huge fan of Babymouse, because they are the way my oldest daughter learned to love reading. The short graphic novels are engaging and easy to read, and teach some sort of lesson or moral. If you have a first grader (or somewhere in the range) who is learning to read, or even a child who isn’t loving reading, definitely pick up Babymouse or Squish.
What I didn’t like about the book was that it took me a few minutes to read (and not much longer for my 8 year old). I love that my kids love the series, but it won’t last them very long!
Book 81 of 2018
Hey, Kiddo (paperback)
by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Hey, Kiddo is a memoir written about the author’s childhood. He was born to a heroin-addicted mother, and his grandparents quickly gained custody of him. Although he was born healthy, his mother quickly spiraled and was in and out of his life (and jail). His grandparents, although stable, both had problems with alcohol and his grandmother, although she adored him, was very cold and verbally abusive to others at times. Jarrett survived by creating comics and drawings, staying in touch with his mother’s siblings, and doing his best to live the best he could, drug free.
What I liked about this book was that it tells a true story of a boy who had a lot against him, but he persevered and came out on top. I know many of my students have people in their homes who drink or do drugs. How do I know? They’ve told me. I hear about their parents passing out on the couch, drinking too much beer, taking pills and sleeping all day, etc. This story gives hope to the ones who do not have a stable home life, but have perseverance to come out on top. Also, I liked the 90’s references. 🙂
What I didn’t like about this book was the way the grandmother Shirl spoke to Jarrett. I know she had her own issues and they had a loving relationship, but it broke my heart to hear her tell him to get out of the way of the tv and dismiss him.
Book 75 of 2018
Cardboard Kingdom (paperback)
by Chad Sell
Cardboard Kingdom is a graphic novel about some kids in a neighborhood who spend their summer creating alter ego super heroes, and costumes out of cardboard. Their super hero personalities are all exaggerations of their own personalities, and they are able to show their true colors. One has tons of stuffed animals and is the controller of animals, another is loud and gruff in real life, and has a bold, rough super hero personality, etc. There is one boy who is a sorceress as his super hero, but it is hinted that he might be gay or trans (in a very loving and accepting way). One boy seems to have a crush on another boy. There are many characters of color, as well as a bully.
What I liked about this book was the way it addressed diversity by featuring characters from all walks of life. Not only were there LGBTQ characters, but there was one who was not accepted by her grandmother for her loudness, one whose dad was an abuser, and the bully was actually being bullied himself. Another character’s mother was in an interracial relationship. I think the more diversity is seen in books, the more it will be accepted as the norm. Soon enough, kids won’t even blink, much less giggle, when two boys kiss or a character decides to dress as the opposite sex. I also loved how these kids played with each other and got along (for the most part) all summer! They were creative and didn’t watch tv or play video games. That’s so inspiring.
What I didn’t like about the book was that it didn’t really have a storyline. It seemed segmented and a series of shorter, somewhat connected stories, but later came together. I wasn’t particularly attached to anyone.
Book 72 of 2018
Phoebe and Her Unicorn (paperback)
by Dana Simpson
Phoebe is a third/fourth grader with a feisty, cynical personality who isn’t liked by the other kids in her class, especially the most popular girl. Phoebe finds herself with a unicorn, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, who gives her one wish. Phoebe wants to be friends with her. We learn some interesting things about unicorns, including they are self-centered, think humans are below them, and love a good lawn. Phoebe uses her snark to entertain the reader, but no one else finds her quite as funny.
What I liked about this book is it’s written in a series of comics, which don’t all have to be read in order. Nearly each page has a pun, joke, or punchline, and I found myself laughing out loud. I didn’t need to remember what happened the page before.
What I didn’t like about this book was that it is written for kids (I borrowed it from my third grade daughter), but there are a lot of things that might go over their heads. I was laughing out loud, but I can guarantee she didn’t understand it all. It is clever writing, and she will enjoy it when she’s older!
Book 9 of 20 (summer goal)
(Book 55 of 2018)